Wednesday, October 21, 2009

We were fairly good girls....

     This week has been busy. Woolly Worm Festival on Saturday, State Fair on Tuesday. It's getting really hard to keep up with the classroom studies with all this extracurricular field work, and  things are starting to fall a little behind. I realize none of the syllabi have "Attend All Festivals and Fairs" listed, but I am a strong advocate of educational field trips, so Sissey and I are not going to miss any opportunity for cerebral stimulation that comes our way. After our disastrous attempt at racing worms, we decided to try our luck at the fair.
      Tuesday was a gorgeous fall day, perfect fair weather, so we headed to Columbia, where Sissey was determined to accomplish two things:

     1. Eat as many food products as humanly possible that have been heavily battered,
         deep-fried, and coated in powdered sugar
     2. Win something really  big.

      I am a strong advocate of becoming completely immersed in whatever activity in which one partakes, for the educational benefit of course, so if Sissey had a goal in mind, it was my parental duty to do whatever possible to help her accomplish her dream. We hit the fair running.
     We had a plan to pace ourselves so there would be no obvious side effects.  That meant we had to start with a healthy lunch, in order to coat the stomach in preparation for the rest of the project.  We had not only a balanced, nutritional meal, but an international one at that: Gyros. We chowed down on some mighty good fair-fare, noting that all the major food groups were covered: dairy ( tzatziki sauce), vegetable (lettuce, tomato, onion) protein (lamb), grains (pita). We were pretty pleased at ourselves for such a healthy start, and earned extra points for the educational benefit of the international, Greek angle.
      But wait! What about the most important food group of the day- Dessert! Not to worry, we rushed to the nearest heart-attack-on-wheels-stand and ordered up a deep-fried Snicker's Bar.  Whew, that was a close call, but we were successful in scarfing down a gooey confection of melted chocolate, nuts, and nougat, dipped in a sweet batter, dripping in trans-fats from partially hydrogenated oils, rolling in a bed of sweet powdered sugar, resting on it's own little stick.
     After checking "Healthy Start" off our list, it was time for a little exercise, so we took a few laps around the Midway to check out the various games and select the vendor that offered the biggest stuffed monkeys on the lot.  I advised Sissey not to attempt any game for which she had not been solicited by the carnies, and for which she had not been promised a prize, any prize, just for playing.  I also had a mental limit on the amount of cash I was willing to forfeit on a stuffed animal that I wouldn't even consider buying in a store. The carnies may have been working us, but at least I had a counter-offensive planned.  She threw a few quarters on a board, trying to win an orange gorilla, but no luck there.  Next she decided to chuck a baseball at a stack of milk bottles, simply because the carney had lured her over with empty promises of giant panda bears and life-size doggies.  Again, and $10.00 later, no luck. I'm not quite sure why she thought she could out-throw the varsity baseball players that had just been duped, but you have to give her credit for optimism.
She tried a few more games, lost a few more dollars, and was starting to give up when we walked by the "Pop-A-Balloon" booth.
     Now I have to give you some background history here.  Sissey has a complex, deeply imbedded, absolute hatred of balloons. She lives in fear that a balloon is going to pop, which will cause her to jump out of her skin, in a way that will hurt anyone sitting or standing in her vicinity. The only balloons she will even get near are the tough-to-pop mylar ones, because she finally realized they simply die a slow, gasping death instead of exploding like the cheaper latex versions. This is not just a phobia-du jour, but a nineteen year, fully developed balloon-a-phobia. I think it began in the NICU when balloons with puppies and kittens were tied to her incubator. Some repressed, trapped, I'm-in-a-box-and-can't-get-out-while-monsters-float-above-me kind of thing.
     However, as we walked past that booth, the carney started to reel her in.
     "Hey!", he called out to Sissey, " this is the easiest game in town. Just pop a balloon, any balloon, only a dollar a dart!"
      She made the mistake of turning her head to listen, making eye contact with him.
     "This is your lucky day," he purred,  "You're already a winner!"
     He waved her over and pointed to the gi-normous monkey, popping out of a banana peel, swinging from the front of the booth. Casually tossing a dart, almost without effort, he demonstrated how easy it was to pop one of the ballons pinned to the wall, telling her over and over that she could win this, win this, win this. She didn't even jump when it popped. Her eyes had started to glaze over, she was having visions of carting that five foot primate proudly through the fair, and it was all over. She was hypnotized.
      "Mom, come on, I think I can do this," she said.
       I stopped, speechless, stunned.
       These were BALLOONS. She hated balloons. It could have taken years of therapy to de-sensitize her to balloons, and yet, the promise of a polyester primate from a mesmerizing carney had cured her in seconds. I plopped a ten dollar bill on the counter and told her to fire away.
     She ended up popping one of them, just one, which netted her a 12 inch green and white chimp. It was not the five foot King Kong she was gunning for, but it was worth every cent just to see her  conquering that latex monster that had chased her for years. It was also much cheaper than the $125/hour fee for therapy.
     The effort had taxed us a little, so it was time for some nutrional stimulation.  Being a health conscious parent, I insisted she eat her vegetables, so it was off to find some fried mushrooms and ranch dressing. Vegetable plus a dairy product, who can complain about that? In addition, I added a freshly squeezed lemonade, in order to avoid scurvy, which is always a danger at the fair.
     It was then time for the hypnotist and his hypno-dog show, so we ran off calories by rushing to the big tent just in time to grab some prime seats.  I am sorry to say we were not selected to go up on stage and become hypnotized, but Sissey had already participated in that routine, and I think it had some impact on my state of consciousness anyway. My reasoning skills became severely affected after watching not one, but two, of the mesmerizing shows.  We had spent an entire day at the fair, and it was time to go, but I insisted on the way out that Sissey could not leave without trying the deep-fried Reese's Cups.  She protested, but I was still in a hypnotic state and determined to complete our deep-fried project, so off I marched to the cart with banners proclaiming "Deep-fried Dough. Deep-fried Snickers, Oreo's, Reese's Cups, and Pepsi." Yes, it said Pepsi. Deep-fried Pepsi. Don't ask me how.
      I wasn't that hypnotized, so we passed on the fried Pepsi, but grabbed a couple of piping hot, protein-packed fried Reese's Cups and almost made it to the exit gate.  We would have made a clean get-away, if it hadn't been for the apple cart.  How can you go to the fair without getting a caramel apple? Excuse me, it is a fruit, it's on the food pyramid, for pete's sake, and we had to cover all our bases.
      Mission accomplished, we waddled back to our car at 9:00 that evening, completely saturated, and exhausted with our efforts. We graciously accepted defeat in the "Win Something Big" category, and adjusted it to read simply "Win Something."  Never completely straying from a healthy food plan, always conscious of the nutrional value of our selections, faithfully adhering to our financial strategy, restraining ourselves when tempted, sticking to our budget, and accurately completing our project, even though somewhat mesmerized....I must say we were fairly good girls at the fair.

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